Have you ever read Daddy Long Legs? Written in 1912, it's a charming story about a young orphan, Judy, who is sent to college by an anonymous trustee, her only obligation being to write him letters about her college experience. It's one of my favorite examples of an epistolatory book. Anyway, early on in Judy's experience at college, when she is still smarting about the humiliations that come with being raised in an orphanage, she writes this:
I forgot to mail this yesterday so I will add an indignant postscript. We had a bishop this morning, and what do you think he said?
"The most beneficent promise made us in the Bible is this, 'The poor ye always have with you.' They were put here in order to keep us charitable."
The poor, please observe, being a sort of useful domestic animal. If I hadn't grown into such a perfect lady, I should have gone up after service and told him what I thought.
This passage keeps popping into my mind when I hear people in my community clamor for "diversity" in the schools. Aside from the fact that I think this clamoring is bizarre from people who have chosen to invest heavily in a very white community (few people of color), that's very family oriented (few people of different sexual orientations), I also keep wondering what their goal is. Are they thinking about benefitting the students who are classified as "diverse" (a code word for (i) not-white, (ii) not -straight, or (iii) the-child-of-not-straight) or are these students intended to be teaching tools for the more ordinary kids at the school?
I've harbored this rather unworthy thought for several years, ever since I heard a school administrator rave about a handicapped child who had just graduated from the school. There was no doubt in my mind that the child had benefitted enormously from the wonderful school, and it was equally obvious that his family was deeply grateful for his having had the opportunity to attend the school. What was striking was the administrator's speech. Rather than speaking about the child's having overcome hurdles, or about the skills the child had learned, the entire speech was about how the child made all the other children learn about dealing with the handicapped, and about different educational styles and about (wait . . . here it comes) diversity. In other words, the child was celebrated, not for himself, but for "being a sort of useful domestic animal," intended "to keep us charitable." That's not diversity; that's using people.